Melting ice on rivers, streams raises flood threat

Flooding along Clear Creek in Jefferson County, Colo.

Flooding along Clear Creek in Jefferson County, Colo.

GOLDEN, Colo. — Ice dams on Colorado streams and rivers are starting to break apart as the weather warms up and it could cause flooding in some places.

A few people were ordered to evacuate from an RV park and condominium complex in Golden Tuesday night when that happened on Clear Creek.

The evacuation orders were lifted about three hours later, but the flood concerns are still alive Wednesday night.

The water is flowing outside the banks on Clear Creek. Golden hasn’t seen a cold weather flood since right after Adolph Coors started brewing beer there in 1873.

“No Goldenite has seen this in 128 years,” says Golden town historian Richard Gardner. “This is the first time we’ve had a winter flood here since December 14, 1885.”

Warmer temperatures allowed ice dams upstream to break, sending rushing water out of Clear Creek’s banks along the frozen river bed.

“The river, because ice has built up, is not flowing under the bridge,” says Dan Hartman of the Golden Public Works Department. “It’s actually relocated itself here to the south into some low area and it’ll probably keep flowing in this area.”

That will be the case at least until it freezes  again or, more likely, ice in the normal creek channel melts and lets the water flow through its regular location.

Ice dams broke on the San Miguel River near Telluride in southwestern Colorado Tuesday. A Sheriff’s deputy captured the rushing wall of water and ice chunks on video. You can see it in the video clip above.

Back in Golden, a recently restored trail has been wiped away by the flooding that started Tuesday night.

“It spread out and caused a lot of ice problems and minor flooding but not a danger to people,” Hartman says.

Parts of downtown Golden were flooded when this happened in December 1885. The folks there are waiting to see what happens when the temperatures get even warmer beginning Thursday and more ice starts melting.

The high in Denver Thursday is expected to be in the low 50s.